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Summary Metaphysical necessity is typically considered to be stronger (or narrower) than physical necessity but weaker (or broader) than logical and conceptual necessity (there are exceptions, however). Traditional examples of metaphysical necessity involve theoretical identity statements such as "Water is H2O" and "Gold is the element with the atomic number 79"; both physically and metaphysically necessary, but not logically or conceptually necessary. It is sometimes thought that the various narrower notions of necessity could be defined by restriction of metaphysical necessity.
Key works Although Kripke 1980 will surely remain the classic on the topic of metaphysical necessity, more recent discussion is abundant. For a discussion of the relationship between different types of necessity and the idea that narrower notions of necessity could be defined by restriction of metaphysical necessity, see Fine 2002. Fine 1994 presents an influential case in favour of reducing metaphysical necessity to essence, different aspects of which have since been discussed, e.g., in Hale 1996, Shalkowski 1997, Lowe 1998, Zalta 2006, Cameron 2010, and Correia 2012. For discussion on Kripke's and Putnam's contributions to the literature, see for instance Edgington 2004Soames 2011, Ballarin 2013, and Tahko 2013.
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  1. Robert Merrihew Adams (1979). Theories of Actuality. In Michael J. Loux (ed.), The Possible and the Actual: Readings in the Metaphysics of Modality. Cornell University Press 190.
  2. José Tomás Alvarado (2009). Una teoría causal de la modalidad. Ideas Y Valores 140:173-196.
    El trabajo presenta una concepción causal de la modalidad metafísica en la que un estado de cosas es metafísicamente posible si y sólo si podría ser causado (en el pasado, el presente o el futuro) por entidades actuales. La concepción es contrastada con lo que se llama la concepción "combinatoria" d..
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  3. Erik Anderson (2005). How General is Generalized Scientific Essentialism? Synthese 144 (3):373 - 379.
    I look at a recent argument offered in defense of a doctrine which I will call generalized scientific essentialism. This is the doctrine according to which, not only are some facts about substance composition metaphysically necessary, but, in addition, some facts about substance behavior are metaphysically necessary. More specifically, so goes the argument, not only is water necessarily composed of H2O and salt is necessarily composed of NaCl, but, in addition, salt necessarily dissolves in water. If this argument is sound, (...)
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  4. Neil E. Williams Andrea Borghini (2008). A Dispositional Theory of Possibility. Dialectica 62 (1):21-41.
    The paper defends a naturalistic version of modal actualism according to which what is metaphysically possible is determined by dispositions found in the actual world. We argue that there is just one world – this one – and that all genuine possibilities are grounded in the dispositions exemplified in it. This is the case whether or not those dispositions are manifested. As long as the possibility is one that would obtain were the relevant disposition manifested, it is a genuine possibility. (...)
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  5. Jean-Pascal Anfray (2009). Qu’est-ce que la Nécessité? Vrin.
    La nécessité, bien qu’elle soit centrale en philosophie, est une notion particulièrement difficile à élucider. Cet ouvrage tente d’en clarifier le contenu, en la distinguant notamment des notions voisines d’a priori et de l’analytique. Il présente également différentes approches réductionnistes de la nécessité : le réductionnisme ontique , le conventionnalisme ou encore le non-cognitivisme . Le commentaire du texte de Descartes montre d’ailleurs que ces thèses contemporaines apportent un éclairage nouveau à l’interprétation de sa doctrine de la création des vérités (...)
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  6. John B. Bacon (1976). The Nature of Necessity. [REVIEW] Grazer Philosophische Studien 2:239-246.
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  7. Roberta Ballarin (2013). The Necessity of Origin: A Long and Winding Route. Erkenntnis 78 (2):353-370.
    In the last 30 years much philosophical discussion has been generated by Kripke’s proof of the necessity of origin for material objects presented in footnote 56 of ‘Naming and Necessity’. I consider the two most popular reconstructions of Kripke’s argument: one appealing to the necessary sufficiency of origin, and the other employing a strong independence principle allegedly derived from the necessary local nature of prevention. I argue that, to achieve a general result, both reconstructions presuppose an implicit Humean atomistic thesis (...)
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  8. Jon Barton (2012). Peacocke’s Epiphany: A Possible Problem for Semantic Approaches to Metaphysical Necessity. Philosophia Scientiae 16 (2):99-116.
    In his _Being Known_ Peacocke sets himself the task of answering how we come to know about metaphysical necessities. He proposes a semantic principle-based conception consisting of, first, his Principles of Possibility which pro­vide necessary and sufficient conditions for a new concept 'admissibility', and second, characterizations of possibility and of necessity in terms of that new con­cept. I focus on one structural feature; viz. the recursive application involved in the specification of 'admissibility'. After sketching Peacocke’s proposal, I intro­duce a fictional (...)
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  9. George Bealer (2006). A Definition of Necessity. Philosophical Perspectives 20 (1):17–39.
    In the history of philosophy, especially its recent history, a number of definitions of necessity have been ventured. Most people, however, find these definitions either circular or subject to counterexamples. I will show that, given a broadly Fregean conception of properties, necessity does indeed have a noncircular counterexample-free definition.
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  10. Andrew Scott Beedle (1994). Necessity Naturalized: A Critique of Modal Realism. Dissertation, The University of Connecticut
    I might have worn a sweater today. My mug might have been filled with tea and not coffee. In short, things might have been different than they are. ;When I say that things might have been different, it seems that I am committed to believing that, on some level at least, the character of the world is open to change, or admits of a certain flexibility. It seems that I am also committed to the idea that even though things might (...)
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  11. Andrea Bianchi (2010). Dicing with Saul Kripke. Erkenntnis 73 (2):237 - 249.
    Everyone knows what David Lewis' possible worlds are, what role they play in his account of possibility and necessity, and Saul Kripke's criticisms. But what, instead, are Kripke's possible worlds, and what role do they play in his account of possibility and necessity? The answers are not so obvious. Recently, it has even been claimed that, contrary to what is standardly assumed, Kripke's approach to modality has not always been consistently metaphysical. In particular, an interpretation of the famous passage in (...)
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  12. Stephen Biggs (2011). Abduction and Modality. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 83 (2):283-326.
    This paper introduces a modal epistemology that centers on inference to the best explanation (i.e. abduction). In introducing this abduction-centered modal epistemology, the paper has two main goals. First, it seeks to provide reasons for pursuing an abduction-centered modal epistemology by showing that this epistemology aids a popular stance on the mind-body problem and allows an appealing approach to modality. Second, the paper seeks to show that an abduction-centered modal epistemology can work by showing that abduction can establish claims about (...)
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  13. Andrea Borghini (2004). Un mondo di possibilità. Realismo modale senza mondi possibili. Rivista di Estetica 26 (2):87-100.
    While preparing my suitcase for Padua, I took care to put my favorite cds in a secured spot since they could have broken along the way. Which (non-mental) fact, if any, could possibly justify my action – i.e. what, if anything, makes it the case that my cds could have broken? The paper explores the nature of possibility. The three theories most widely endorsed thus far – fictionism, actualism, and modal realism – are introduced, with a particular attention to their (...)
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  14. Phillip Bricker (2001). Island Universes and the Analysis of Modality. In G. Preyer & F. Siebelt (eds.), Reality and Humean Supervenience: Essays on the Philosophy of David Lewis. Rowman and Littlefield
    It follows from Humean principles of plenitude, I argue, that island universes are possible: physical reality might have 'absolutely isolated' parts. This makes trouble for Lewis's modal realism; but the realist has a way out. First, accept absolute actuality, which is defensible, I argue, on independent grounds. Second, revise the standard analysis of modality: modal operators are 'plural', not 'individual', quantifiers over possible worlds. This solves the problem of island universes and confers three additional benefits: an 'unqualified' principle of compossibility (...)
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  15. John P. Burgess (2013). On a Derivation of the Necessity of Identity. Synthese 191 (7):1-19.
    The source, status, and significance of the derivation of the necessity of identity at the beginning of Kripke’s lecture “Identity and Necessity” is discussed from a logical, philosophical, and historical point of view.
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  16. F. K. C. (1975). The Nature of Necessity. Review of Metaphysics 28 (4):762-763.
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  17. Ross Cameron (2010). On the Source of Necessity. In Bob Hale & Aviv Hoffman (eds.), Modality: Metaphysics, Logic and Epistemology. Oxford University Press
    Simon Blackburn posed a dilemma for any realist attempt to identify the source of necessity. Either the facts appealed to to ground modal truth are themselves necessary, or they are contingent. If necessary, we begin the process towards regress; but if contingent, we undermine the necessity whose source we wanted to explain. Bob Hale attempts to blunt both horns of this dilemma. In this paper I examine their respective positions and attempt to clear up some confusions on either side. I (...)
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  18. Ross Cameron (2009). What's Metaphysical About Metaphysical Necessity? Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 79 (1):1 - 16.
    I begin by contrasting three approaches one can take to the distinction between the essential and accidental properties: an ontological, a deflationary, and a mind-dependent approach. I then go on to apply that distinction to the necessary a posteriori, and defend the deflationist view. Finally I apply the distinction to modal truth in general and argue that the deflationist position lets us avoid an otherwise pressing problem for the actualist: the problem of accounting for the source of modal truth.
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  19. Ross P. Cameron (2010). The Grounds of Necessity. Philosophy Compass 5 (4):348-358.
    Some truths are necessary, others could have been false. Why? What is the source of the distinction between the necessary and the contingent? What's so special about the necessary truths that account for their necessity? In this article, we look at some of the most promising accounts of the grounds of necessity: David Lewis' reduction of necessity to truth at all possible worlds; Kit Fine's reduction of necessity to essence; and accounts of necessity that take the distinction between the necessary (...)
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  20. Ross P. Cameron (2010). Necessity and Triviality. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 88 (3):401-415.
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  21. Ross P. Cameron (2007). The Contingency of Composition. Philosophical Studies 136 (1):99-121.
    There is widespread disagreement as to what the facts are concerning just when a collection of objects composes some further object; but there is widespread agreement that, whatever those facts are, they are necessary. I am unhappy to simply assume this, and in this paper I ask whether there is reason to think that the facts concerning composition hold necessarily. I consider various reasons to think so, but find fault with each of them. I examine the theory of composition as (...)
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  22. Rodrigo Neira Castaño (2013). " Possibility", de Michael Jubien. Teorema: International Journal of Philosophy 32 (3):179-183.
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  23. Charles Chihara (2003). Review of Alvin Plantinga, Matthew Davidson (Ed.), Essays in the Metaphysics of Modality. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2003 (6).
    This book consists of an introduction by the editor, eleven of Plantinga’s previously published pieces, and an index. The previously published works are presented in the following chronological order: “De Re et De Dicto” (1969); “World and Essence” (1970); “Transworld Identity or Worldbound Individuals?” (1973); Chapter VIII of The Nature of Necessity (1974); “Actualism and Possible Worlds” (1976); “The Boethian Compromise” (1978); “De Essentia” (1979); “On Existentialism” (1983); “Reply to John L. Pollock” (1985); “Two Concepts of Modality: Modal Realism and (...)
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  24. David Chua, Metaphysical Accounts of Modality: A Comparative Evaluation of Lewisian and Neo-Aristotelian Modal Metaphysics.
    In this essay I comparatively evaluate two realist metaphysical accounts of modality: David Lewis’ (1986) genuine modal realism (GMR), and neo-Aristotelian modal realism (AMR) as put forth by Alexander Pruss (2011). GMR offers a reductive analysis of modal claims of possibility and necessity in terms of claims quantifying over concrete worlds and counterparts, and is in this way committed the existence of a plurality of concrete worlds other than the actual world; AMR, on the other hand, offers an analysis of (...)
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  25. Nicola Ciprotti & Luca Moretti (2009). Logical Pluralism is Compatible with Monism About Metaphysical Modality. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 87 (2):275-284.
    Beall and Restall 2000; 2001; 2006 advocate a comprehensive pluralist approach to logic, which they call Logical Pluralism, according to which there is not one true logic but many equally acceptable logical systems. They maintain that Logical Pluralism is compatible with monism about metaphysical modality, according to which there is just one correct logic of metaphysical modality. Wyatt 2004 contends that Logical Pluralism is incompatible with monism about metaphysical modality. We first suggest that if Wyatt were right, Logical Pluralism would (...)
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  26. Andrew Earl Coats (1999). Approaching the Mountain of Modalities: A View of Imaginability, Conceivability, and Possibility. Dissertation, University of California, Riverside
    Recently philosophers have raised doubts about the principle that imaginability implies possibility. Their doubts have been due largely to a number of examples involving the notions of identity and essence , in which certain impossibilities nonetheless seem to be imaginable. ;The dissertation responds to this line of argument. Its central thesis is that facts about identity and essence put constraints on what we can imagine, just as they put constraints on what is possible; hence, states of affairs that deny a (...)
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  27. Geraldine Coggins (2003). World and Object: Metaphysical Nihilism and Three Accounts of Worlds. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 103 (3):353–360.
    The study of metaphysical possibility involves two central questions: (i) What are possible worlds? (ii) Is there an empty possible world? In looking at the first question we consider the different accounts of possible worlds-Lewisian realism, ersatzism, etc. In looking at the second question we consider the discussions of metaphysical nihilism, the modal ontological arguments, etc. In this paper I am drawing these two questions together in order to show how the position we hold on one of these issues affects (...)
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  28. Fabrice Correia (2012). On the Reduction of Necessity to Essence. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 84 (3):639-653.
    In his influential paper ‘‘Essence and Modality’’, Kit Fine argues that no account of essence framed in terms of metaphysical necessity is possible, and that it is rather metaphysical necessity which is to be understood in terms of essence. On his account, the concept of essence is primitive, and for a proposition to be metaphysically necessary is for it to be true in virtue of the nature of all things. Fine also proposes a reduction of conceptual and logical necessity in (...)
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  29. Fabrice Correia (2006). Generic Essence, Objectual Essence, and Modality. Noûs 40 (4):753–767.
    When thinking about the notion of essence or of an essential feature, philosophers typically focus on what I will call the notion of objectual essence. The main aim of this paper is to argue that beside this familiar notion stands another one, the notion of generic essence, which contrary to appearance cannot be understood in terms of the familiar notion, and which also fails to be correctly characterized by certain other accounts which naturally come to mind as well. Some of (...)
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  30. Sam Cowling (2010). Michael Jubien, Possibility. [REVIEW] Philosophy in Review 30:47-49.
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  31. Matthew Davidson (ed.) (2003). Essays in the Metaphysics of Modality. Oxford University Press, USA.
    This volume contains some of the best work in metaphysics from the past 30 years, and will remain a source of critical contention and keen interest among ...
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  32. Vanessa de Harven (2016). Necessity, Possibility and Determinism in Stoic Thought. In Max Cresswel, Edwin Mares & Adriane Rini (eds.), Logical Modalities from Aristotle to Carnap: The Story of Necessity. Cambridge 70-90.
    At the heart of the Stoic theory of modality is a strict commitment to bivalence, even for future contingents. A commitment to both future truth and contingency has often been thought paradoxical. This paper argues that the Stoic retreat from necessity is successful. it maintains that the Stoics recognized three distinct senses of necessity and possibility: logical, metaphysical and providential. Logical necessity consists of truths that are knowable a priori. Metaphysical necessity consists of truths that are knowable a posteriori, a (...)
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  33. J. Divers (2011). Possibility, by Michael Jubien. Mind 119 (476):1189-1193.
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  34. Cian Dorr (2004). Non-Symmetric Relations. Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 1:155-92.
    Presupposing that most predicates do not correspond directly to genuine relations, I argue that all genuine relations are symmetric. My main argument depends on the premise that there are no brute necessities, interpreted so as to require logical and metaphysical necessity to coincide for sentences composed entirely of logical vocabulary and primitive predicates. Given this premise, any set of purportedly primitive predicates by which one might hope to express the facts about non-symmetric relations order their relata will generate an objectionable (...)
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  35. Alice Drewery (2005). Essentialism and the Necessity of the Laws of Nature. Synthese 144 (3):381-396.
    In this paper I discuss and evaluate different arguments for the view that the laws of nature are metaphysically necessary. I conclude that essentialist arguments from the nature of natural kinds fail to establish that essences are ontologically more basic than laws, and fail to offer an a priori argument for the necessity of all causal laws. Similar considerations carry across to the argument from the dispositionalist view of properties, which may end up placing unreasonable constraints on property identity across (...)
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  36. Mircea Dumitru (ed.) (forthcoming). Metaphysics, Meaning, and Modality. Themes From Kit Fine. Oxford UP.
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  37. Erin Eaker (2014). Kripke's Sole Route to the Necessary a Posteriori. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 44 (3-4):388-406.
    In ‘Kripke on epistemic and metaphysical possibility: two routes to the necessary a posteriori’, Scott Soames identifies two arguments for the existence of necessary a posteriori truths in Naming and Necessity . He argues that Kripke's second argument relies on either of two principles, each of which leads to contradiction. He also claims that it has led to ‘two-dimensionalist’ approaches to the necessary a posteriori which are fundamentally at odds with the insights about meaning and modality expressed in NN. I (...)
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  38. Dorothy Edgington (2004). Two Kinds of Possibility. Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 78 (1):1–22.
    I defend a version of Kripke's claim that the metaphysically necessary and the knowable a priori are independent. On my version, there are two independent families of modal notions, metaphysical and epistemic, neither stronger than the other. Metaphysical possibility is constrained by the laws of nature. Logical validity, I suggest, is best understood in terms of epistemic necessity.
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  39. Dorothy Edgington (1988). Graeme Forbes, "The Metaphysics of Modality". [REVIEW] Philosophical Quarterly 38 (52):365.
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  40. B. D. Ellis (2002). The Philosophy of Nature: A Guide to the New Essentialism. Acumen.
    In "The Philosophy of Nature," Brian Ellis provides a clear and forthright general summation of, and introduction to, the new essentialist position. Although the theory that the laws of nature are immanent in things, rather than imposed on them from without, is an ancient one, much recent work has been done to revive interest in essentialism and "The Philosophy of Nature" is a distinctive contribution to this lively current debate. Brian Ellis exposes the philosophical and scientific credentials of the prevailing (...)
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  41. Delia Graff Fara (2012). Possibility Relative to a Sortal. In Karen Bennett & Dean W. Zimmerman (eds.), Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, volume 7. Oxford University Press 1.
    This paper is an informal presentation of the ideas presented formally in ”Relative-Sameness Counterpart Theory”. Relative-sameness relations -- such as being the same person as -- are like David Lewis’s “counterpart” relations in the following respects: (i) they may hold over time or across worlds between objects that aren’t cross-time or cross-world identical (I propose), and (ii) there are a multiplicity of them, different ones of which may be variously invoked in different contexts. They differ from his counterpart relations, however, (...)
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  42. Robert Farrell (1983). Metaphysical Necessity and Epistemic Location. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 61 (3):283 – 294.
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  43. Robert Farrell (1981). Metaphysical Necessity is Not Logical Necessity. Philosophical Studies 39 (2):141 - 153.
    Kripke and putnam have argued that metaphysical necessity is truth in all possible worlds, Hence is a kind of logica necessity; it is this claim I argue against. My argument proceeds by way of my considering and elaborating an example to show that although 'gold has atomic number 79' be counted a metaphysically necessary truth, There is a possible world in which it is false; it turns out to be for all I show here at most a physical necessity, True (...)
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  44. Kit Fine (2005). Modality and Tense. Oxford University Press.
  45. Kit Fine (2002). Varieties of Necessity. In Tamar Szabo Gendler & John Hawthorne (eds.), Conceivability and Possibility. Oxford Up 253-281.
    It is argued that there are three main forms of necessity --the metaphysical, the natural and the normative--and that none of them is reducible to the others or to any other form of necessity. In arguing for a distinctive form of natural necessity, it is necessary to refute a version of the doctrine of scientific essentialism; and in arguing for a distinctive form of normative necessity, it is necessary to refute certain traditional and contemporary versions of ethical naturalism.
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  46. Kit Fine (1994). Essence and Modality. Philosophical Perspectives 8:1-16.
    It is my aim in this paper to show that the contemporary assimilation of essence to modality is fundamentally misguided and that, as a consequence, the corresponding conception of metaphysics should be given up. It is not my view that the modal account fails to capture anything which might reasonably be called a concept of essence. My point, rather, is that the notion of essence which is of central importance to the metaphysics of identity is not to be understood in (...)
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  47. Peter Fritz (2016). A Purely Recombinatorial Puzzle. Noûs 50 (4).
    A new puzzle of modal recombination is presented which relies purely on resources of first-order modal logic. It shows that naive recombinatorial reasoning, which has previously been shown to be inconsistent with various assumptions concerning propositions, sets and classes, leads to inconsistency by itself. The context sensitivity of modal expressions is suggested as the source of the puzzle, and it is argued that it gives us reason to reconsider the assumption that the notion of metaphysical necessity is in good standing.
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  48. Bruce L. Gordon (2002). Maxwell–Boltzmann Statistics and the Metaphysics of Modality. Synthese 133 (3):393 - 417.
    Two arguments have recently been advanced that Maxwell-Boltzmann particles areindistinguishable just like Bose–Einstein and Fermi–Dirac particles. Bringing modalmetaphysics to bear on these arguments shows that ontological indistinguishabilityfor classical (MB) particles does not follow. The first argument, resting on symmetryin the occupation representation for all three cases, fails since peculiar correlationsexist in the quantum (BE and FD) context as harbingers of ontic indistinguishability,while the indistinguishability of classical particles remains purely epistemic. The secondargument, deriving from the classical limits of quantum statistical partition (...)
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  49. Dana Goswick (2010). Bridging the Modal Gap. Journal of Philosophy 107 (8):432-443.
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  50. Dominic Gregory (forthcoming). Counterfactual Reasoning and Knowledge of Possibilities. Philosophical Studies:1-15.
    Williamson has argued against scepticism concerning our metaphysically modal knowledge, by arguing that standard patterns of suppositional reasoning to counterfactual conclusions provide reliable sources of correct ascriptions of possibility and necessity. The paper argues that, while Williamson’s claims relating to necessity may well be right, he has not provided adequate reasons for thinking that the familiar modes of counterfactual reasoning to which he points generalise to provide a decent route to ascriptions of possibility. The paper also explores another path to (...)
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